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How We Approach Portrait Photography

Not every image is created equal.

Three years of experience have taught us a lot about what constitutes a good image, and many don't make the cut—even our pictures don't always survive our high standards—there. We said it. Not every press of the shutter results in an image we want to pass along, and that's okay.

Learning how to identify the differences between a solid image, an exceptional image, and a bad photo is critical to providing high-quality images to our clients.

So, how do we ensure more photographs meet and exceed our standards?

A lot of it comes down to knowledge. The more experience we have regarding the science behind lighting and how it translates into a photograph is the number one element for producing higher-quality images. Let's look at an example to understand better what we mean.

Comparing Images

three photographs of a couple posing, one is underexposed, on is properly exposed, and one is edited to enhance the image overall.
These three images demonstrate a single bit of knowledge that helps us create one of our favorite portrait styles—Off-Camera Flash.

In the first, you can see we've set up a test shot without any flash. We've dialed down the exposure in this image in preparation for the fill-flash we'll be adding in later, but this underexposes our subjects to the point of obscuring them. Another photographer might take a different approach and expose the subject correctly. Still, the photograph they produce would have an overexposed sky, and they would lose the details in the sky.

A couple drenched in shadows stands on a pier. In the upper right hand corner you can see a flash umbrella that is dark.
Here is the underexposed image with all the details in the sky.

Underexposing allows us to keep the details in the sky, and having off-camera flash will enable us to bring back the details on our subjects.

a couple poses on a pier. In the upper right hand corner you can see a flash umbrella lit helping expose the image properly.
Here's the unedited image with the flash added in

. You can see a drastic change in our subject, and yet the highlights remain the same. This difference is critical to this style of imagery, as you'll see in the next image.

Once we bring our RAW files into our processing programs, we're able to dial in the adjustments we need for the desired effect.

A beautiful woman poses with her fiancé on a pier in the evening glow of the fading sun.
In this final image, you'll see how much we can bring up the shadows on our subjects without losing detail.

In closing

Not every image can compete with our high standards, and that's okay. We've learned that every photographer creates some bad images throughout their career. Learning to mitigate how many bad photos you make and carefully culling your photographs is an integral part of the process. Still, for a photographer to succeed, they need to pull on an extensive knowledge base to create good images consistently.

We're learning every day, and we're proud of the images we make. If you like our style and need photography services, please let us know, and we'll work with you to make your vision come to life.


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